Verge Science is here to bring you the most up-to-date space news and analysis, whether it’s about the latest findings from NASA or comprehensive coverage of the next SpaceX rocket launch to the International Space Station. We’ll take you inside the discoveries of new exoplanets, space weather, space policy, and the booming commercial space industry.
The Washington Post points out this 25-page document (PDF) released Tuesday by the State Department. The Post reports this signals further involvement of the diplomatic corps in a realm that until now, has been largely managed by NASA and the Pentagon.
This first Strategic Framework for Space Diplomacy outlines how State Department diplomacy will advance continued U.S. space leadership and will expand international cooperation on mutually beneficial space activities, while promoting responsible behavior from all space actors, strengthening the understanding of, and support for, U.S. national space policies and programs, and promoting international use of U.S. space capabilities, systems, and services.
NASA’s 530km-high TeraByte InfraRed Delivery (TBIRD) system reached a staggering 200Gbps downlink to a receiver on the ground, IEEE Spectrum reports. This doubles last June’s 100Gbps throughput, which “was 100 times faster than the quickest internet speeds in most cities.”
Less than ten years ago, NASA was celebrating just over 600Mbps, but it now thinks the tech could eventually enable up to 5Gbps throughput from the moon:
Moreover, Mitchell says, they are looking at ways to push TBIRD’s capabilities as far away as the moon, in order to support future missions there. The rates under consideration are in the 1 to 5 gigabit per second range, which “may not seem like much of an improvement, but remember the moon is roughly 400,000 km away from Earth, which is quite a long distance to cover,” Mitchell says.
The Washington Post reports regulators have hit Elon Musk’s Boring Company with multiple complaints over careless, unpermitted work in Bastrop County, Texas.
Elon’s “Snailbrook” plans to build a private community around his SpaceX and Boring Company facilities — as well as local unease about the effects of Elon’s “move fast” ethos on the countryside — have been reported by The Wall Street Journal and the San Antonio Express-News.
From the Post:
Amy Weir, a local property owner, said Musk’s companies have “no doubt done amazing things,” but that there was no need for them to “reinvent wastewater treatment” when the city was ready to handle the job. The penalties for violating the permit were far too low, she added. “The owner of these companies spent $44 billion on Twitter, and it had no impact on his ability to continue to build these businesses,” she said.
A little over a month after Starship obliterated its launchpad and went kablooey before it reached stage separation, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that it will be ready again in about two months, pending launchpad upgrades and rocket testing.
Yesterday, SpaceX released a dramatic video recapping the first flight, if you want to watch it with synth-heavy piano music behind it.
Unity 25 was the company’s first trip in nearly two years, but now Virgin Galactic (not Virgin Orbit, RIP) is preparing to launch “commercial spaceline operations” with the Galactic 01 mission in late June.
The mission flew 54.2 miles away from Earth’s surface (Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have opinions on whether or not that counts as spaceflight), and you can watch the recap right here.
Vice used FOIA requests to uncover some key emails between SpaceX and the FAA.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Privacy ICAO Aircraft Address program (PIA) allows private jet owners to essentially create a dummy or “temporary” aircraft registration number that is known only to the jet’s owner and the U.S. government.
Emails obtained by Motherboard show that SpaceX enrolled Elon Musk’s private jet in this program sometime prior to August 2022, but failed to properly implement the temporary tail number, allowing the plane to continue being tracked under its real, permanent tail number.
Plus, they were sent at around the same time as Musk and Twitter were banning / unbanning @ElonJet and journalists who mentioned it. Meanwhile, the guy behind the account is just starting another tracker for Ron Desantis.
At the end of March, we learned satellite launching company Virgin Orbit had laid off most of its staff and would cease operations “for the foreseeable future.” Now the door to a comeback has been closed after it failed to find a wholesale buyer or cash infusion and will shut down for good (Virgin Galactic, which it spun off from in 2017, is still going).
CNBC reports the bankrupt company’s assets and gear were sold at auction to Rocket Lab, Stratolaunch, and Launcher, which is a subsidiary of Vast Space.
Axiom Space launched Ax-2 today, the second of four planned private missions to the space station. Of the four people on this trip (a seat reportedly costs about $55 million), mission commander Peggy Whitson is the most experienced, with three previous trips to the ISS under her belt and 665 days in space, more than any other American astronaut.
The Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Monday morning at around 9:16AM ET.
Rejoice lovers of space internet, SpaceX’s Starlink service has abandoned plans to implement hard data caps and overage fees that had already been delayed multiple times. Users are still subject to an acceptable use policy, so play nice with your “unlimited data.”
While ever-so-optimistically noting this is a preview of the Earth’s fate (in another 5 billion years or so), scientists at MIT, Harvard, and Caltech say that for the first time, they were able to see a star expand and engulf a nearby planet.
This horror show was captured within our own galaxy and included the use of NASA’s asteroid-hunting Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) to capture infrared light indicating dust released from the disintegrating planet.
Whether you put this up on the big screen now or bookmark it for a later session, NASA’s put together nearly an hour of 4K footage of the Earth with some relaxing music for your screensaving needs.
The videos were captured over the last year from the International Space Station during Expeditions 67 and 68.
SpaceX’s official word on the flight test and explosion:
At 8:33 a.m. CT, Starship successfully lifted off from the orbital launch pad for the first time. The vehicle cleared the pad and beach as Starship climbed to an apogee of ~39 km over the Gulf of Mexico – the highest of any Starship to-date. The vehicle experienced multiple engines out during the flight test, lost altitude, and began to tumble. The flight termination system was commanded on both the booster and ship. As is standard procedure, the pad and surrounding area was cleared well in advance of the test, and we expect the road and beach near the pad to remain closed until tomorrow.
With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and we learned a tremendous amount about the vehicle and ground systems today that will help us improve on future flights of Starship.
Thank you to our customers, Cameron County, and the wider community for the continued support and encouragement. And congratulations to the entire SpaceX team on an exciting first flight test of Starship!
A van holding cameras for the NASASpaceFlight crew took the impact of debris kicked up by SpaceX’s Starship launch yesterday, as seen in this grab from LabPadre’s broadcast.
But the dust didn’t stop there — the New York Times reports homes in cities miles away were covered in brown grime, supporting claims that the projections for environmental impact didn’t properly account for the power of the Super Heavy booster.
We don’t know why the first Starship test flight ended in flames, but this shot posted on Twitter by Michael Baylor provides the clearest look at the spacecraft as it started to go off the planned flight path.
On the NASASpaceflight YouTube stream, the hosts noted a report that 5 or 6 of the booster rocket engines shut down before the “rapid unscheduled disassembly” ended things entirely.
After years of waiting, the first orbital test flight for SpaceX’s Starship ended explosively after a few minutes. Now Elon Musk says in a tweet that the team “Learned a lot for next test launch in a few months.”
Another look at the Starship launch.
That’s one way to describe the end of Starship’s first test flight. On the NASA Spaceflight stream, those who were present described it as a primarily auditory experience, so even the videos and GIFs may not capture whatever just happened.
The flight test didn’t make it all the way to Hawaii as projected, but it did clear the tower. From the streams, we could see some of the booster’s engines shutting down before it went into a spin, and eventually, the flight was terminated, as the craft blew up just a couple of minutes into the test flight.
The first SpaceX Starship orbital test flight is on its way.
The countdown continues to tick away, and we haven’t heard of any issues that will stop today’s Starship flight test.
On the livestream, the commentators note there is an ability to hold at 40 seconds left, so stay tuned.
No word on any wayward boats or aircraft, and SpaceX seems to think they’ve got the valve issue that scrubbed Monday’s attempt figured out, so we may see the Starship test launch attempt today.
If you’re watching the NASA Spaceflight stream, you’ll see even more exhaust coming from the spacecraft, as its Raptor engines are chilled in preparation for launch.
Elon Musk and SpaceX’s rocket launch plans for the “Starbase” at Boca Chica, TX, have had opposition for quite a while. Still, in light of today’s Starship flight test attempt and the recent FAA license issued, some folks have revisited the possible environmental impact.
Freelance journalist Pablo De La Rosa notes local opposition to the launch, while on Substack, ESG Hound goes into issues with noise and the overall design of the launch site.
I still am in shock that a rocket system, the largest in history, will be fired off, from an inadequate facility, in the middle of an endangered species habitat, by a company that revels in the beautiful failure of explosions with seemingly no guardrails and no respect for the real danger this operation presents to the public.
As noted by the NASA Spaceflight folks, SpaceX continues to check off items on the pre-launch list, now fueling the Starship prototype itself.
Meanwhile, SpaceX’s official livestream has kicked off with a bit of music before the commentators hop into the stream.
With an hour-plus to go until the Starship launch window opens at 9:28AM ET, you still have time to check out our story and video about the SpaceX superfans who literally moved just to follow the company’s developments in Texas and who have been waiting for (what might happen) today as eagerly as anyone.
It’s 20 minutes long; you’ll still be able to see a rocket spewing smoke on the launchpad when it’s done.
Another alternative to the main video feed for the Starship test launch is SpaceX’s own Mission Control Audio stream. For official communications, first, this is the one you want, however, it comes without visuals and, as the caption mentions, “There may be very long periods of silence.”
More fuel going in.
If you can’t wait for SpaceX’s official Starship launch attempt live attempt livestream to begin at 8:45AM ET, or you just want an alternate angle on the action, NASA Spaceflight is, as usual, streaming from cameras trained on the launch tower in Texas with commentary of space enthusiasts providing additional context about everything going on.